Mayor objects to rejection of RTC planPublished 11:10am Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The Fergus Falls City Council was unanimous Monday in rejecting developer Geitso Export Management’s proposal to redevelop the Regional Treatment Center property.
Mayor Hal Leland, however, did not approve of the outcome.
“The resolution is approved with much regret,” he said after the votes came in.
The comment was one of several Leland made throughout the night in support of Geitso CEO Atul Wahi’s plan to turn the RTC into a business/art/education/tourism center called The Global XChange Village. The council ultimately rejected the proposal because Wahi would not supply asked-for financial information or the $5 million in security money up front.
Leland, however, believes the council should have given Wahi a little more leeway.
“I think a more reasonable approach should be taken to try and encourage the one remaining developer who has the courage and the will to continue … some kind of development with the city council,” he said.
That Wahi was the only developer of the original seven interested in the RTC serves as evidence to Leland that the request for proposals process was flawed from the start.
“We had established an RFP process that was virtually impossible for any developer to complete,” said Leland.
Though he acknowledged that Wahi could have helped his case by handing over more financial details, Leland said it was unrealistic to believe that all but the most wealthy of developers could simply give the city a $5 million check without investor support – support he said could not come without the city moving forward with at least a letter of intent.
“It is a roadblock that I think (the council) really knew was going to kill the deal,” Leland said.
Leland did agree that the council must require the developer to provide financial protection, but he would have been content with Wahi’s proposal to provide the $5 million after a developer agreement but before any work would begin or the title transferred.
Moving forward, Leland said he hopes the council does more due diligence to determine what, if any, historical tax credits will be lost if parts of the Kirkbride building are torn down in favor of keeping other parts for historical purposes. An example discussed before at city meetings is the demolition of the Kirkbride “horseshoe” in favor of just keeping the central tower.
“Until we know exactly what the implications are, it’s absolutely foolish to demolish anything,” he said.
The council plans on considering more plans from developers who were previously interested in the RTC. Leland said he hopes some will come forward with ideas, but he’s worried that the council’s interaction with Wahi might scare some away.
“I think the way this situation was treated would cause anyone to pause (before doing) business with the city of Fergus Falls,” he said, adding, “If I were a developer, I wouldn’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole.”